by Andrew Walden
How do Hawaii legislators get away with sexual harassment? House and Senate Rules are especially designed to maintain secrecy if anybody is bold enough to file an actual complaint.
House Rules specifically prohibit Legislators and staff from revealing any information “which pertains to illegal or improper conduct by a present or former Representative….”
Senate Rules provide for a lengthy process starting with an attempt by the President of the Senate to resolve any complaint “in an administrative proceeding.” Failing that, the President is to appoint a “Special Committee” which is authorized to meet in executive session “…when committee discussion could unfairly damage the reputation of individuals….”
Here are the relevant sections:
House Rules: (link)
PART 10. RULES OF DISCLOSURE
10.1. NON-DISCLOSURE POLICY.
Except as provided in Rule 10.2, no Representative, member, staff, or any person engaged by contract or otherwise to perform services for the Committee shall release, divulge, publish, reveal by writing, word, conduct, or disclose in any way, in whole or in part, or by way of summary, including during tenure with the Committee or anytime thereafter, information or material in the possession of the Committee which pertains to illegal or improper conduct by a present or former Representative; allegations or accusations of this conduct; any resulting preliminary inquiry, adjudicatory review or other proceeding by the Committee into these allegations or conduct and any report issued about the inquiry, review, or other proceeding; the investigative techniques and procedures of the Committee; any testimony or other evidence given before the Committee in executive session (including the name of any witness who appeared or was called to appear in executive session), any classified or Committee-sensitive information, document or material, received or generated by the Committee, any material or information deemed to be confidential by the Chair and Vice Chair, acting jointly, or any classified or Committee-sensitive information which may come into the possession of this person during tenure with the Committee or its staff. No such information shall be made public unless authorized by a two-thirds vote of the authorized membership.
Senate Rules: (link)
PART IX. DECORUM; DISCLOSURES; PEER REVIEW; PUNISHMENT
Rule 72 Misconduct; Procedure; Peer Review.
No member of the Senate shall be subject to a charge for misconduct, disorderly behavior, or neglect of duty unless the person making the charge shall have first given notice of the charge to the President and to the member being charged.
Upon receipt of the charge, the President shall attempt to resolve the matter in an administrative proceeding. If the matter cannot be resolved administratively, the President may appoint a Special Committee to be chaired by the Vice-President or such other member as the President may designate to investigate, hear and report upon the conduct of the member charged for misconduct, disorderly behavior or neglect of duty. Any member so charged shall be informed in writing of the specific charge or charges made against the member and have opportunity to present evidence and be heard in the member's own defense before the Special Committee. Following its investigation and hearing, the Special Committee shall file its report with the President setting forth its findings and recommendations.
If the committee recommends dismissal of the charge or charges, the President may dismiss the charges without further hearing, or the President may present the report of the committee to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate, by a majority vote, may dismiss the charge or charges against the member without a hearing.
If there is no dismissal of the charge or charges, or if the committee recommends censure, suspension or expulsion, the President shall present the report of the committee to the Senate for its consideration and decision. The member who is charged, shall be informed in writing of the presentation of the charge or charges of the committee report to the Senate and be given an opportunity to be heard in the member's own defense. The Senate, by a majority vote, may dismiss the charge or charges without a hearing, or with notice and an opportunity to be heard in the member's own defense, censure a member or, upon a two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate, suspend or expel a member
At any stage of the charge against a member, the member shall have a right to be represented by a person or persons of the member's own choosing.
PART II. COMMITTEES
Rule 20 Special Committees on Accountability.
The President may appoint a Special Committee on Accountability which shall conduct informational briefing on matters referred to it by Senate Leadership or investigate matters referred to it by single house or concurrent resolutions. The committee shall be composed of not less than five members, unless otherwise ordered by the Senate, and include a member or members of the minority party. The President shall appoint the committee's vice chair, who may change from time to time, to represent the standing committee having primary jurisdiction over the subject matter referred to the special committee.
Each Special Committee on Accountability shall terminate at the end of the calendar year in which it was appointed, unless otherwise specified. All requirements of standing committees shall apply to the committee.
Rule 21 Meetings of Committees.
Meetings, including decision-making sessions, of leadership committees appointed by the President, and Standing Committees shall be public provided that meetings in executive session may be allowed in such exceptional circumstances when committee discussion could unfairly damage the reputation of individuals….
Link: HRS CH21 “Legislative Hearings and Procedure”